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I have to say I found this book, which looks at the way the copying of the New Testament of the Bible introduced errors into it over the years, fascinating. This was for three reasons. First because as a writer. It's remarkable to see such a study of how a series of manuscripts going back a couple of thousand years have accumulated errors and changes. Secondly it really makes you wonder about people who think the Bible is an inerrant source of guidance, and thirdly it shows how some of Christianity's less popular aspects are probably not part of the original version.

Because the book is quite thorough in detail, it helps to really be interested in language and also to have a mild familiarity with the Bible - otherwise it could be a bit of an uphill struggle.

What Ehrman reveals is the way that our translations of the New Testament of the Bible are based on various copied manuscripts and how errors in copying (both accidental and intentional to change the meaning) made various versions drift away from the originals. The detective story of piecing this together is really interesting, especially bearing in mind we don't actually know exactly what the originals said, so textual analysis has to be used to try to pin down what are the changes and what was the earliest version.

This is clearly a body blow for any intelligent person who believes the Bible is the absolute word of God containing no errors. Such people often take the King James (AV) Bible as their 'absolute truth' version - yet it turns out that the New Testament of this was taken from a single, pretty dubious, late Greek source. It gets lots of things wrong.

I won't go through all the interesting stuff, but one result of reading this is that St Paul has gone up in my estimation. Some of his letters in the Bible make him come across as seriously misogynistic. He appears to say that women shouldn't speak in public and should only do what they are told by their husbands. But it turns out this anti-female stuff was added later by a tinkering scribe who clearly wanted to assert the traditional place of men in society. The original has quite a lot that puts forward women as equals, including naming a female apostle, a female deacon and eminent female members of the congregation. So, sorry St Paul - I got you wrong.

All in all an absorbing read for anyone into the way the written word changes with time and an absolute must for anyone who takes the Bible seriously.
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on 12 October 2010
I went to many churches and meetings but was never given the sort of information on textual analyisis that Bart Ehrman gives insight into. I only heard about Ehrman from the great thinker Richard Dawkins. I'm glad I bought this book. The ministers in my part of Scotland infer or hope you assume that the N.T was written down by 4 of the 12 disciples shortly after his resurrection. It is quite a revelation to discover that the majority of bible scholars would be happy to push the date for the earliest scripture(Pauls letter to Galatians), back to 50 C.E.. That there is general agreement that no-one knows who wrote Mark, Matthew, Luke, John, that Mark was at earliest written after 70C.E( based in part on Q), that Matthew and Luke were largely based on Mark ,while John was written several decades later. In fact the earliest extant fragment of N.T scripture (from 1 Thess) called p52 is from the early 2nd Century. The next earliest fragments are from Galations, called p46 from about 200 C.E. The earliest extant full N.T is from 330 C.E. Scholars have had to look at letters written by other historical figures for and against the gospel accounts(from 2nd and 3rd century)to see evidence that parts of the 300 C.E. version were similar to earlier copies. Ehrman points out that it is likely that N.T writings were built up as rival factions of Christianity tried to refute each other. "Whose word is it?" will help to awaken your mind to seeing how these texts came to be put together and that, probably, they are far from being a fax from God.
On page 186 headed "Jews and the Texts of Scripture", Ehrman discusses the anti-Semitic language which increases with time from Mark through to Johns gospel(probably written after 100C.E.
How is it that a faith supposedly all about love talks in such a harsh, brutal way about the Jews , language which is also unacceptable in a modern civilization? The Jews, even according to the story, only played into Gods plan and in any case how can you blame a whole peoples for the decision of Pilate and a few priests?
Perhaps the greatest idea from this book is that you should let each of the books of the bible have its own voice rather than averaging & blurring everything together. E.g when you compare Lukes nativity with Matthews it is obvious the contradiction between them is impossible to reconcile, Luke has Mary and Joseph native to Nazareth while Matthew has M&J native to Bethlehem.
Does this review accurately reflect the words of Ehrman or have I exaggerated and massaged his views to suit my own doctrine? You'll have to read the originals!
For one of the clearest examples of Bible fiction try " The pre Nicene New Testament " by Robert M. Price p 592 where he observes that Acts 10 & 11 has Peter wondering if the gospel is just for Jewish people, but how can that be when Matt 28v19 and Luke 24v47 has Jesus tell the 11 disciples, " to make disciples of all nations ". Had Peter forgotten ? Acts 10 shows disciples with no habit of looking up written records of the sayings of Jesus. No wonder Jesus got fed up with Peter's actions sometimes
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on 16 February 2009
Having grown up with a strongly religious parent and regularly surrounded by eager Christians, I became familiar in hearing quotations from the Bible and the vicarious way these people would often use them to judge others. Opinions were vociferous and usually black and white (difficult to empathise for someone who thinks in shades of grey) and always backed up by some saying or other in the New Testament. I began to suspect that you could pretty much pick out any one-liner to justify any argument you felt like voicing. Yet despite my developing misgivings, I couldn't bring myself to devote the time to really study a book which I instinctively felt was flawed anyway.

Roll on twenty-odd years and the answer, well, to my prayers arrived and a catharsis in Bart D Ehrman's excellent Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why (AKA Whose Word is It? The Story Behind Who Changed the New Testament and Why)

We learn that in the early first century CE, stories were circulating about a man called Jesus who had recently died. These tales and accounts were told and re-told between folk for thirty-plus years until a man put paid to the accumulating effects of 'Chinese whispers' and wrote the first Gospel. He was Mark. Matthew and Luke came a generation or so after that, borrowing from various sources including an intriguing document called Q. The Gospels and many other writings were then copied by hand countless times (no printing presses then), translated, and copied again - a process that went on for several hundred years. Believe it or not the earliest surviving biblical text of any significant volume is no earlier than two centuries after Christ died. By the way, the Gospels were 'named' by the Church in the 3rd century too as they were in fact all written anonymously! Who like me thought some of them were actual Disciples? And who realised that the Bible wasn't fully formed until three hundred or so years after Christ died, a process which involved the rejection and destruction of unknown numbers of other Christian writings?

Then there was the imperfect science of manuscript copying, especially of the original Greek with its tricky characteristic of having no spaces between its words. And then we must consider the reliability of the Bible writers, copyists and translators who were in fact human, and being human had that tendency for error, bias and spin, which Ehrman ably evidences.

So most of us who have read the Bible and indeed those who quote it at will, are ultimately relying on a book which is an English translation of a Latin translation of a Greek copy of a myriad of other 'copies' of written interpretations of decades old local stories of a dead man named Jesus. Depending how blind your faith is will determine how accurate you think that two thousand year process has been.

One of the appeals with this book is the way Ehrman studiously informs and enlightens in such a non-judgemental way. He is respectful of the reader's potential religious beliefs and he doesn't ask you to 'choose a side'. Indeed, and notwithstanding a brief rundown of his Evangelical youth in the introduction, at no point does he let you know his own religious beliefs.

For a subject matter I anticipated to be arduous and heavy, all credit to Ehrman this book was a breeze to read.
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on 30 January 2013
Dr Ehrman is capable to explain very complex and sensitive matters in a clear and compelling way, drawing the interested but uninitiated readers into the debate. In this volume he presents both the history regarding the area of critical bible (New Testament) studies and its developing methods as an adventure into human thought.
Through his careful handling of the matter he should be read by fundamentalists as well as by those merely interested in this important element of Western culture.
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on 31 May 2007
Accomplished Bibilical scholar that he is, Ehrman has written a useful and informative introduction to the current state of research on the origins of the books of the New Testament. While papyri continue to be discovered, and techniques of physical and literary analysis continue to improve, there is more to be learnt. His ending - even in reading the text we draw our own conclusions, so it's to be expected that those who transcribe it do the same - is surprisingly post-modern.

One could have wished for a clearer overview of where current research leaves the core beliefs, such as Jesus' claim to divinity, and the nature of the Trinity, and how it sheds light on issues such as the role of women in the Church. We can hope that his many years of study will bear fruit in a new version of the New Testament which takes account of his and his colleagues' findings. Meanwhile, read this before you're tempted to take a doctrinaire position.
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on 29 December 2014
This book is not a book for the ordinary "person in the pew" who might well benefit from a shorter, simpler version. However, it is certainly well worth reading by any person who has done little or no serious critical Biblical study and who would like to or who needs to know more about the Bible. However, beware ! This book was published earlier in the US under the title "Misquoting Jesus" and while the new, somewhat more accurate (British) title may attract more buyers, changing the title (something not acknowledged by the English publisher) is quite MISLEADING at a time when many buy online from the US or the UK without seeing an actual book. One needs to be more wary and especially when an author has written many books, I think one needs to go instead to a real bookshop to check things out. Already owning "Misquoting Jesus", I have wasted some money but learnt a lesson !
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on 29 June 2009
WHO ELSE?

I am interested in religion, particularly from the comparative point of view. Its present day influence on human behaviour is evident.I have great respect for the Christian ethos, which emphasises, as I understand it, humility and care for others. rather than egoism and rampant greed.. It is a puzzle that Ehrman's work is so little known, and that there is not a strong reaction from at least some the many thousands of people whose livelihood is based on promulgation of this set of doctrines. Is no-one really bothered about the problems of the New Testament? L Michael White has written a fascinating work on the New Testament and related subjects ("From Jesus to Christianity") but no one can compare as far as I know with Ehrman's body of work. Perhaps those who might have been expected to read a disinterested analysis of the topics Ehrman deals with are concerned lest too much reliable scholarship may test the foundations of a shaky faith. This present book, like its predecessors, while it does not pretend to be all easy going, is worth the attention of any serious person who claims to be a follower of Jesus' precepts.
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on 17 May 2014
This book backed up some other reading I have been doing so I enjoyed it greatly. Ehrman writes with an easy to read style. Found the first half where he explains the reasons for the changes an interesting story. I could not put it down. The latter section where he looks at some of the details is a bit heavy going as found I needed to read it with the book in one hand and a Bible in the other.
A book that is not for all, but I would recommend it to any that want to delve into the details of how our Bible was put together
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on 18 February 2011
This book is a must read for anyone who wants to learn about errors in the New Testament and how they came about. With his usual clarity, Ehrman reveals that many errors were inserted by mistake (the ancients were also bad spellers) but some things were purposely added or removed to support a theological point.

For example, did Jesus die by the grace of God (In Greek, Chariti Theou) or did he die seperated from God (Choris Theou)? Both spelling variations are found in the numerous available manuscripts, but the best attested version is that Jesus died WITHOUT God. Someone found this an unattractive proposition and so changed a few letters. A small change that makes a big difference.

Thinking like this leads us to an important point: How do you know what you are reading in your bible is correct?

A brilliant and fascinating read, and a great introduction to textual criticism.
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on 24 December 2014
This guy just churns these books out. This one first appeared in the States under the pithier title Misquoting Jesus.
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